At the start of this season my biggest concern for the Milwaukee Admirals was their goaltending. Jump ahead a few months and Anders Lindbäck should be a folk hero in Milwaukee. It is without question that he has been the best player for the Admirals all season and last night’s effort from him was spectacular. What are the Admirals to start the 2017-18 season without Lindbäck in net? That’s a frightening question. Because, in moments like last night, I’m not sure the Admirals even get to a shootout.
What the Admirals have been doing since November is a lot of up-down, stop-start, mild turned frozen hockey. It hasn’t always been that great but there are always hints within the rough of the team’s true character. I think the Admirals are slowly starting to display that on a more consistent basis and have done so since the three-in-three weekend in the middle of December. Through all of the rough patches though there has been Lindbäck. He has either had a hand in keeping games within striking distance for a win or, like last night, pretty much carrying the defense out of danger and into the win column. There have been highlight reel saves or plays in net so well measured they feel mundane at this point. His work playing the puck around his net is taking the bite out of opposition forechecks and triggering attacks. More than anything it is his sheer consistency that stands out. He has started 22 games this season out of the Admirals 31 games played and earned 15 wins from the Admirals now 16-12-3-0 record. The Big Swede is this team’s MVP right now and it isn’t even close.
And, hey, much like the team – Lindbäck isn’t perfect. I’m sure he would have loved to have had that first goal last night back that Beau Bennett managed to rifle up, sneak behind him, and allow for a Brandon Pirri goal. Heck, he’d probably even like that Pirri shootout attempt back. These past two months for the Admirals has all felt like one big process. It’s the next few months ahead that will tell us all whether or not the group has used the lessons that November and December provided correctly. For now, what I’ve been watching the last two weeks, I am starting to see signs of growth in the Admirals that is encouraging.
Speaking of encouraging: 7,017. That is the number of fans packed inside the ol’ MECCA last night to see the Amtrak Rivalry on a snowy winter’s night. I thought the Wednesday crowd was great. The crowd that came out to give the Admirals run on home ice in 2017 a proper send off was even better. Loved it.
There is one more worthy note to throw down after last night’s game: Trevor Murphy. It has been a grueling season for a young Admirals defense but the more I’ve watched Murphy this season the more I’m impressed in everything he is doing. He is minimizing his turnovers and better utilizing his skills, that make him so effective offensively, on both sides of the puck. The equalizing goal from Anthony Richard was a thing of beauty on his part on hand-eye coordination alone but Murphy starts that play and ends that play: stick on puck, defense to offense, join the rush, pace in transition, and putting a puck to the net. Murphy has been a real bright spot for the Admirals defense this season and he really is playing the best he ever has as a pro.
After last night’s game I was able to catch up with Lindbäck as well as Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason plus Frédérick Gaudreau and Justin Kirkland. These were last night’s post-game interviews following the shootout victory at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
What were your thoughts on last night’s game? Are the Milwaukee Admirals starting to show signs of improvement? How are you feeling about this team as we get set to enter 2018?
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